2006-07Final FourSemifinal 1
May 04, 2007 CET: 20:30
Local time: 21:30 O.A.K.A.
Sani Becirovic - Panathinaikos - semifinal - Final Four Athens 2007

Panathinaikos advanced to the Euroleague Final for the first time in five years by downing Tau Ceramica 67-53 Friday night in the second semifinal of the 2007 Euroleague Final Four at Athens Olympic Indoor Hall (OAKA) in the Greek capital. To the delight of their many fans in the sold-out arena, Sani Becirovic and Mike Batiste scored 15 points apiece to lead the Greens, who led from start to finish. Panathinaikos, which has not been to a final since winning the 2002 title in Bologna, Italy, will face defending champion CSKA Moscow in the championship game here on Sunday evening. The win is sweet revenge for coach Zeljko Obradovic's side, which saw its bid to reach the 2006 Final Four ended by Tau at OAKA in Game 3 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs last season. The result also sends Tau home empty handed in its third successive trip to the Final Four. Tau was in the game more than the final score would indicate, clawing its way back to a 6-point deficit late in the fourth quarter. But when coach Bozidar Maljkovic's club lost star power forward Luis Scola to his fifth foul and with his shooters all struggling, Panathinaikos was able to claim the victory. Batiste added 12 rebounds to his tally for an impressive double-double, while Ramunas Siskauskas finished with 11. Tau, which scored 15 points fewer than its previous lowest scoring effort of the season, got 11 from Serkan Erdogan. Tau finished 4-for-24 (16.7%) from downtown and despite 19 offensive rebounds, wound up with only 12 second-chance points. Scola finished with a season-low 6 points.

Dimitris Diamantidis just needed 15 seconds to bury the first basket of the game with a three-pointer, while Becirovic added a driving layup for a 5-0 Panathinaikos lead. Tau needed more than a minute to score before it found a go-to guy in Luis Scola. He nailed a mid-range jumper, but missed free throws in the following play. Tau's perimeter players were off-target in the opening minutes, and a layup-plus-foul by surprising starter Dimos Dikoudis gave the Greens a 8-2 lead. Pablo Prigioni beat the shot clock buzzer with a big three-pointer, but Becirovic answered with a smooth jumper. Tau kept looking for Scola and he fed Tiago Splitter for a huge dunk. A red-hot Becirovic buried a triple for a 13-7 Panathinaikos lead. Both teams kept playing tough defense without many fouls, but the Greens were at a different level of intensity now. Tau committed too many turnovers, forcing coach Maljkovic to call timeout after 7 minutes. Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic decided to use Fragiskos Alvertis at power forward and passing big man Dejan Tomasevic at center to open the court. Tau tried to get back to track with Zoran Planinic at point guard, but the visiting side simply could not score against the Greens' outstanding man-to-man defense, while Alvertis made 5 free throws to boost his team's lead to 18-7. Foul shots by Scola brought Tau within 18-9 after 10 minutes.

Tau opened the second quarter with a 24-second violation, but soon got back on track. Igor Rakocevic scored in penetration, while Tau finally managed to lock up the defensive rebounds and start playing its usual game. Scola and Splitter had already picked up their second foul, however, and Panathinaikos started to get Kostas Tsartsaris and Mike Batiste involved. Tau opted for a small lineup with Sergi Vidal at power forward, so coach Obradovic responded by bringing in Milos Vujanic for Tsartsaris. Batiste missed a couple of shots, which allowed Kaya Peker to bring Tau within 18-13. Nikos Hatzivrettas stepped up with a wild three-pointer, which Planinic answered with a driving layup. Diamantidis fed Batiste for an alley-oop layup off a Panathinaikos timeout, while Vujanic fired in one from downtown to make it an 11-point game, 26-15. Planinic tried to change things with consecutive driving layups, but Becirovic provided a highlight with a huge triple. Panathinaikos seemed comfortable playing with a small lineup, while Tau had trouble getting Rakocevic and House involved. Siskauskas took Peker one-on-one and buried a three-pointer, but Peker responded by scoring in the low post for Tau. Scola returned to the floor in the final minute of the half, but a free throw by Becirovic and a buzzer-beating tip-in by Siskauskas gave the Greens a 35-21 halftime margin.

Tau needed a quick comeback in the opening minutes of the third quarter to keep its chances alive, but missed three consecutive shots instead and saw Scola pick up his third foul. Erdogan finally found his first points of the night on a driving layup and soon added a three-pointer to get Tau within 35-26. Panathinaikos slowed its offense down and used enough patience to find good shots and get second-chance opportunities. Dikoudis scored in the paint, while stopping Scola with physical defense on the other end. Tau was facing severe foul trouble, as Prigioni, Planinic and Splitter joined Scola with 3 fouls each. House drew a foul and hit a free throw, but a corner triple by Siskauskas boosted the Greens' lead to 40-27 after 24 minutes, as a majority of Green fans exploded when Tau called a much-needed timeout. The visiting side adjusted its defense, but problems kept coming at the other end, with missed free throws and another 24-second violation. Vujanic and Rakocevic traded free throws, but Tau missed one shot after another despite its good defense. Free throws by Fred House and a put-back basket by Peker gave Tau some hope, 45-34. Batiste set the crowd on fire with a big dunk before Splitter hit a free throw to fix the score at 47-35 after three quarters.

Splitter stepped up with a tip-in at the start of the fourth quarter. Still, Panathinaikos shined on defense, but it struggled to score now with Vujanic and an unexpected Tony Delk at both guards. The Greens were getting to the foul line often and Batiste hit free throws for a 48-37 margin with less than 8 minutes remaining. Dikoudis took over with a wild fast break dunk, as the Tau shooters remained off-target down the stretch. Thousands of Panathinaikos fans had already started to celebrate, especially when Batiste stepped up with a one-handed put-back dunk. Tau did not give up however, as Prigioni fired one in from downtown and Erdogan added free throws for a 53-42 deficit. Scola shined with a put-back layup off a Tau timeout and by the time Erdogan buried a three-pointer Tau finished a 0-10 run and was back in the game at 53-47 with 4 minutes to go. Obradovic called a much-needed timeout and Batiste made a free throw on Scola's fourth foul. The Tau star fouled out right after that, but Planinic got his team within 54-48. Panathinaikos kept using the shot clock and carried on drawing fouls to keep its lead alive. Becirovic made free throws only to see Splitter erase them with an easy layup. Batiste was next on the line and did not miss either, but Erdogan only made 1 of 2 for Tau. Vujanic sealed the outcome with a three-pointer that broke the game at 61-51 with 1:41 remaining. Tau still franticly tried to make something happen, but it was to no avail as the Green crowd began to celebrate a spot in Sunday's final.

Friday, May 4, 2007
Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
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Referees: LAMONICA, LUIGI (ITA), BELOSEVIC, ILIJA (SRB), RYZHYK, BORYS (UKR)
Attendance: 18363
By Quarter1234
Panathinaikos18171220
Tau Ceramica9121418
End of Quarter1234
Panathinaikos18354767
Tau Ceramica9213553
Panathinaikos
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 ALVERTIS, FRAGISKOS 7:15 5 0/1 0/1 5/5           1     2 3 3
5 DELK, TONY 7:00   0/1 0/1         1 1            
7 BECIROVIC, SANI 25:15 15 2/3 2/3 5/6   1 1 1   2     4 4 12
8 BATISTE, MIKE 28:15 15 4/8 0/1 7/8 4 8 12 1 1 2 1   2 5 25
9 SISKAUSKAS, RAMUNAS 30:00 11 1/2 2/4 3/4 3 2 5     1     2 4 13
10 HATZIVRETTAS, NIKOS 20:00 3 0/1 1/2   1   1     1     3 1 -1
11 DIKOUDIS, DIMOS 20:30 7 3/5 0/2 1/5 2 5 7 2 1 2     1 4 10
12 TSARTSARIS, KOSTAS 2:45   0/1 0/1                   1 1 -2
13 DIAMANTIDIS, DIMITRIS 29:45 3 0/1 1/4   1 5 6 4 1 3     5   2
15 TOMASEVIC, DEJAN 8:45   0/2     1   1   2 1     3 2 -1
18 VUJANIC, MILOS 17:30 8   2/5 2/2       1   1     1 1 5
19 JAVTOKAS, ROBERTAS 3:00                   1 2   1    
Team           1 3 4               4
Totals 200:00 67 10/25 8/24 23/30 13 24 37 10 6 15 3 0 25 25 70
        40% 33.3% 76.7%
Head coach: OBRADOVIC, ZELJKO
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
Tau Ceramica
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 SCOLA, LUIS 25:30 6 2/5   2/4 5 2 7 1 2 4     5 5 7
5 PRIGIONI, PABLO 25:00 6 0/1 2/8   3 2 5 2 2 1     3 2 6
7 CILLA, JESUS DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
8 RAKOCEVIC, IGOR 26:00 4 1/4 0/2 2/2   6 6     1   1 1 3 5
9 VIDAL, SERGI 9:30 2 1/1               1       1 2
10 PLANINIC, ZORAN 20:00 7 3/5 0/1 1/3   2 2   1       5 3 3
11 ERDOGAN, SERKAN 21:45 11 1/1 2/7 3/4 1 1 2   1 6     2 3 3
12 TELETOVIC, MIRZA 0:15                              
14 PEKER, KAYA 24:45 7 3/6   1/2 4 4 8   1 1   2 4 2 7
20 ESLAVA, ARIEL DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
21 SPLITTER, TIAGO 22:15 7 3/5   1/4 4 2 6     3     3 3 5
32 HOUSE, FRED 25:00 3 0/5 0/6 3/4 2 2 4   3 1     2 3 -2
Team             3 3               3
Totals 200:00 53 14/33 4/24 13/23 19 24 43 3 10 18 0 3 25 25 39
        42.4% 16.7% 56.5%
Head coach: MALJKOVIC, BOZIDAR
This game has no play by play yet

Head Coaches

OBRADOVIC, ZELJKO
Panathinaikos
“I think we win first of all because of defense. We prepared the game to play hard defense against key players for Tau. But it's true it was not such a good game. I am not satisfied with how we played offense. We have players with the talent to play better and I hope that in the final we play better. Without question, Scola and Rakocevic are important player for them, but also Prigioni and stopping the pick-and-roll. Today, every small detail is important. It's a big tartget for us to play the final against the champion. I promise that we will fight.”

"The truth is I never saw the game in doubt. We dominated from the beginning. Only when Erdogan made that basket with about 4 minutes 30 seconds left, cutting the difference to six points, did I wonder. But we recovered quickly and that was it. One thing I am sure about is that we have to play, and we can play, better on offense. I have not doubt about it, and I am going to talk to my team about playing, above all, faster on offense."

“We prepared to play good defense against Tau's important players and I think my players did well. One of the problems for us was Tau's offensive rebounds. We prepared for that, but we also knew it could happen because of how we prepared to play defense. I think my team has the quality to play better offense. I am pleased for our fans, who helped us very much. I want to say congratulations to Tau Cermaica, which played very well all season.”

“For the final, I don't think tricks exist in this game. It's a very difficult job this game. I didn't see [CSKA's] game tonight, but everyone knows what kind of quality CSKA has.”

“I think that most important is how the team plays and I'm very happy as a coach to have these players. All my players played good and even I have three players that work very hard all season and could not be on the team tonight. I'm very happy that none of my players think about statistics. They are very good people.”

“Normally we score more points. We focused on defense and that's why the game had a low result of a defensive game. There was a lot of pressure on the players on both teams and often they passed the ball instead of taking chances to do something.”
MALJKOVIC, BOZIDAR
Tau Ceramica
"What we saw tonight was not the same style of play that we showed many times during the season. Why? Because we started the game with decisive errors. We failed in a lot of one-on-one defensive situations and our help defense was slow instead of fast. Sometimes, we confused our positions and a team like Panathinaikos that has quality and offensive talent always makes you pay for that. At the same time on offense, we had two main problems. We made turnovers playing hastily and without logic. We had worked on trying not to do that. And second, against a team as important as Panathinaikos, you cannot miss 10 free throws. Even missing 2 or 3 would make it tough against them. This was a night I would call bad. In the last quarter, we improved our defense, played pick-and-rolls better and controlled the rebounds despite them having a height advantage at all positions. We got within 6 points, but again made errors and Panathinaikos has won thanks to our defensive defects and important players like Luis Scola fouling out. It seems we didn' t stay calm. Some of our important players lost their calm and for that reason we didn't play as we should have. From the first day I arrived and analyzed Tau two months ago, I said an important game would come and it would be difficult. This is not like against Maccabi, trading basket after basket until someone wins. I said there would always come a game when another team wouldn't let you play like you want, and in that way we have not improved."

Players

TSARTSARIS, KOSTAS
Panathinaikos
“Panathinaikos has indeed never lost a final, but we are talking basketball here, not tradition. We have a very difficult game in front of us against CSKA, and we must give 110% to lift the trophy.”
HATZIVRETTAS, NIKOS
Panathinaikos
“We controlled the rhythm and placed tremendous team defense. We kept Tau’s offensive weapons to very low standards. We knew, though, that Tau is a very strong team and could come back any time in the game, so we tried to concentrate in all 40 minutes. In the end, we found the solutions we needed, we made the free throws we had to and locked the win. As far as the final is concerned, we have time to prepare it.”
DIAMANTIDIS, DIMITRIS
Panathinaikos
“The key was our tough defense, and the fact that we managed to control the pace during the game. We knew that TAU has the quality and players able to give them a lot of points, that’s why our main plan was to keep them low. Even when they closed the gap to 6 points near the end, we reacted calmly, created good plays on offense and made our free throws. The presence of the fans, even if we thought that it could mean some pressure to us, eventually gave us a big push to give 100% of our energy in the defensive end. Now we have the defending Euroleague champion to beat, and again we must focus mainly on defense. All we have to do is improve some parts of our offensive game.”
DIKOUDIS, DIMOS
Panathinaikos
“It was a really tough game, but I think we were very well prepared for it. We followed our coach’s instruction to the point and everything went as planned. We didn’t let TAU run, and emphasized very much on the inside game. We took their big guys out of the game and kept all their quality offensive players at bay. Of course both teams struggled offensively, so we couldn’t run away and they couldn’t get closer either. For the final, CSKA’s only advantage is that they are defending champions and have the experience. Now I will find on my way my friend Papaloukas, with whom we have shared great moments. May the best team win.”
JAVTOKAS, ROBERTAS
Panathinaikos
“I am so excited. I have waited for this for a long time. You never know what can happen before the game, but we did exactly what we worked for in practice. For me, I don't play a lot, but I love it and this is a very good experience. You have to make the most out of the time you have on court. That's my job. We knew who to stop and our coach knew everything about them. We had done our homework and that gave us our result."
VUJANIC, MILOS
Panathinaikos
“I feel great, because I scored a lot of points and beat a very tough team like Tau with very strong defense, especially in the first half, when they only scored 21 points. I think that is the key for the final, to play at the same defensive level. I had some bad luck in the past but it is all gone. I don't think about injuries anymore, but only about basketball."
TOMASEVIC, DEJAN
Panathinaikos
"I am happy, that's for sure. I think we played a good game, especially on defense. We managed to stop their fast break chances and above all, we managed to shut down Scola and Rakocevic, their best players. Without them, Tau doesn't play at the same level. You have to play physical against Scola, I know him very well and he is probably the best power forward in Europe. We knew that if we stopped Scola, 50% of the job was already done. We got ready for the game and everything worked out well. CSKA won't be an easy opponent, but we have two practices to get ready for this game."
SISKAUSKAS, RAMUNAS
Panathinaikos
“I feel great, but the job is not finished. We have one more game and it is the most important one. There is no time to celebrate now, we only did half of the job. CSKA is probably the toughest opponent in Europe, but honestly I can't think about it now, since I am tired and very excited. We worked a lot before facing Tau, watched a lot of videos and analyzed them very well. We knew what we had to do."
BATISTE, MIKE
Panathinaikos
“What we've been preaching with one week to prepare for Tau is defense, defense, defense. Our offense will take care of itself because we have pretty good weapons, but when you want to play defense, everything is possible. We knew Tau likes to run and set picks for their pure shooters, so we made sure to get a hand out and to automatically switch with the big men an trap the guards outside and on the inside we had to play tough one-on-one defense and we were able to get it done today. I think we and CSKA are the best teams in Europe, hands down, and to me, CSKA is still the best team until we take it from them. The same way we played today is the same way we will play on Sunday. We're gonna give it 110 percent.”
ERDOGAN, SERKAN
Tau Ceramica
"The easy way is to put the blame on the referees, but I won’t do that. We are the only ones that should be blamed. They played their hearts out and we were just looking at them. We played like we didn’t care. We started the game terribly, tried to stay close, but again we didn’t have the energy and heart needed for this kind of games."
RAKOCEVIC, IGOR
Tau Ceramica
“They played great defense, we didn’t find any easy shot for the whole game as we are used to. They switched on every pick and made us struggle. We wanted to win this game. It was a bad night for many of our players and if you want to beat Panathinaikos, you must have at least eight players at a high level.”
PLANINIC, ZORAN
Tau Ceramica
"That’s life, sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, but Panathinaikos were better. They altered our game plan, because Luis Scola was trying, he tried everything he got, but they were better, they played better than we did. We have to have our head up and look for a win in the Spanish championship."
VIDAL, SERGI
Tau Ceramica
"There is nothing to say. I think the home-court advantage was not so important, because it’s great to play in such atmosphere, but they were better and that’s all. Sometimes things don’t go as expected . We knew that, even playing bad, being 12-14 points down, we could come back. But we committed some mistakes when we were 6 points down and that killed us. It’s pretty hard to get in here, so being stopped once again is a hard blow."
TELETOVIC, MIRZA
Tau Ceramica
"Of course I feel terrible after the game we lost tonight. We didn’t play the way we planned before the game. They were better, they played better and they defeated us. There is nothing much to say. Panathinaikos did a good job, they ran for every ball, they jumped for every ball and they played at their home court, so we had to respond and do the things better than we did in order to be able to win. It’s a very big pity."
PEKER, KAYA
Tau Ceramica
"I feel so sad because we came here to win the tournament and we couldn’t play our basketball. They switched on every pick and we didn’t continue our system as we made quick shots. That’s why we lost the game in my opinion. I think home-court advantage was not important; Tau beat them last season. If you play good it doesn’t matter, but when they play good and you play bad, home court becomes big. They put us in trouble on offense, because when there are so many switches, you have to make something extra and maybe we shot before ending our systems. Most of the time we struggled on offense, because I think our defense was not so bad."
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